SEATTLE – During his talk sponsored by the New American Foundation in March 2008, author Parag Khanna addressed the rising challenges facing the United States’ global hegemony. According to Khanna, China and the European Union are the new contenders in the global “geopolitical marketplace.”
Aside from Khanna’s insight, one statement particularly puzzled me greatly: “Why am I talking about Europe, China, and the United States? What about Russia, what about India, what about Islam … what about all those other powers?”
Initially I thought it must have been an error. The speaker must surely realize that Islam is a religion, not a political entity with a definable “geopolitical marketplace.” But it was not an error, or more accurately, it was a deliberate error.
Khanna went on to explain that Islam doesn’t have the “kind of coherence” that allows it to spread its power and influence — unlike the dominant other powers that he highlighted. According to that odd logic, Islam and Brazil were discussed in a similar context.
This sort of twisted reasoning has flourished as an academic discipline-turned-industry since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Sure, it existed prior to this date, but its experts and their then few think tanks were largely placed within a decidedly pro-Israel, Zionist and rightwing political orthodoxy. In the last decade or so, the relatively specialized business multiplied and became mainstream wisdom.
Its numerous “experts” — who are more like intellectual purveyors — became well-known faces in American news networks. Their once “politically incorrect” depiction of Arabs, Muslims and the non-Western world at large, became acceptable views which were then translated into actual policies used for invading countries, torturing prisoners and flushing Holy Qurans down toilets.
It is impracticable to rationally argue with those who are essentially irrational. Many of us have tirelessly tried to wrangle with those who want to “kill all Muslims” whenever someone claiming to be a Muslim is accused of carrying out or planning to carry out an attack somewhere in the world.
The “debate” rages on, not because of the power of its logic, but because of the heavy price of blood and gore that continues to be paid due to the deliberate misinformation, utter lies and the subtle intellectual racism that defines much of the American media and academic discourses.
Numbers are of no relevance in such discussions because absurd media pundits are not swayed by facts. In the U.S., there have been nearly 900,000 gun fatalities in the last 30 years or so (1980 to present) compared to around 3,400 terrorism-related fatalities in the last 40 years or so (1970 to present). These figures include victims of the 9/11 terror attacks. This unsurprising fact has been referenced by MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes and raises critical points.
If the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen (plus numerous other lesser acts of violence committed in the name of “fighting terror”) were indeed compelled by the preciousness of American lives, then the least U.S. Congress should do is tighten gun control laws in their own country. But respected members of Congress are fighting the good fight to keep things as they are, in the name of protecting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution — “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But rights are infringed at will whenever it suits U.S. foreign policymakers and their intellectual peddlers.
Despite the fact that the war on Iraq was illegal and that torture of prisoners is a loud violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, America’s war rages on and the Guantanamo gulag is thriving.
One cannot help but think that the U.S.’s legal, political and even moral blind spots must always somehow involve Muslims.
But of course it’s more complicated than this. Muslims are not targeted because they are Muslim. Yes, of course, religion and skin color are important layers in the massive “crusade” — a George W. Bush term, not mine — in America’s so-called war on terror. “Hating Islam” is also a convenient pretense to achieve foreign policy objectives that are centered on imperial domination, thus natural resources.
Neither American foreign policymakers, nor their media cheerleaders who hardly take a day off from smearing everything Muslim, are interested in Islamic theology, history, spirituality or values, which are meant to espouse uprightness in the individual and righteousness in the collective. But there is an army of dishonest people who would rather comb through every shred of Islamic text to highlight passages out of context just to prove that Islam is fundamentally flawed, teaches hate or “anti-Semitism” and that it celebrates a supposed “culture of death.”
These very men and women would have done the same, as their predecessors have, to demonize any other culture, religion or community that sat on large deposits of oil or dare exist in an area of strategic importance to the U.S. or within an alarming proximity to Israel.
The anti-Islam tirade received another boost following the Boston Marathon Bombings of April 15, which were blamed on two American-Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The anti-Muslim circus was back in town, as political jugglers, along with media acrobats seemed to reach the ever predicable conclusion: hate all Muslims and do whatever possible to exploit any tragedy to further U.S. hegemonic interest in the Middle East.
Eric Rush, a Fox News pundit, summed up that sentiment when he called for the killing of all Muslims following the bombings and then later claimed that his tweets were meant to be sarcastic.
Ann Coulter called for women to be put in jail for “wearing a Hijab.”
This type of hate-mongering is of course not random, no matter how palpably ‘crazy’ the people behind it are. It is an essential component of ensuring that a largely uninformed public is always on board whenever the U.S. is ready for yet another military adventure involving Muslim countries.
All of this rhetoric must also be juxtaposed with what is happening in the Middle East. There, yet a new war is brewing, one that is largely aimed at ensuring that the current chaos under way in the so-called Arab Spring countries will yield favorable results from the viewpoints of Israel, America and the West.
The new push for military intervention started with Israeli allegations that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons against opposition forces, followed by British-French allegations, and finally, despite brief hesitation, concurred by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Over 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the Syrian civil war. In the last two years it has become a hub for unprecedented regional and international rivalry, a Great Game of sorts. The U.S., Israel and their allies have watched as Syria, once considered a threat to Israeli security, descended into inconceivable brutality involving the Syrian army, various factions and bands of fighters from near and far. It was a matter of time before the U.S. and its allies made their move to seal Syria’s fate and to ensure quiet at the Israeli northeastern frontier.
For that to happen, Muslims must be hated and dehumanized in ways that would make war a tad less ugly and future violence, in some odd way, “justifiable.” The official purpose of Hagel’s recent visit to Israel was to finalize U.S. arms sales to Israel and other countries, which total about $10 billion. Knowing how such weapons have been used in the past, one can hardly appreciate the “sarcasm” in Eric Rush’s tweet of wanting to “kill them all.”
A look at the history of U.S. foreign policy showes that violent words often translate into violent action, and here lies the real danger of the supposedly crazy bunch who equate Islam to Brazil and wish to incarcerate women for wearing scarves.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press).